Miramare Castle is a small castle located on the Italian coast about 5-10 kilometers northwest of downtown Trieste. The castle sits in the middle of 22 hectares of lush gardens, which are open to the public. The castle building itself has about 25 rooms, which are all richly decorated and worth touring. Miramare Castle’s most famous resident was Maximillian, who later became the ill-fated emperor of Mexico (he was killed in office after a brief reign). After the fall of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the castle was inhabited by the Duke of Savoy and his family. In the 1950s, it became a museum.
Ferdinand Maximilian (1832-1867), of the House of Habsburg – younger brother of Franz Joseph, Emperor of Austria – built the beautiful castle wich sits on the Gulf of Trieste. Maximilian originally came to Trieste in 1850 when he was eighteen years old with his brother Charles. According to legend, he was forced to take shelter in the harbour of Grignano when caught in a sudden storm. It was then that he chose that bare rocky spur of limestone origin as the setting for his home. He wanted to name it Miramar after the name of Prince Ferdinand of Saxony’s residence in Pena, Portugal.
When he approved the plans, he insisted on creating an intimate atmosphere in the area reserved for his family – an area which he wanted to be in contact with nature, reflecting both his own spirit and that of an epoch.
The work, steadily supervised by Maximilian, was finished only after his departure in 1864 for Mexico where he was appointed Emperor, and where after a brief reign he was shot in Querétaro in June 1867.
Currently, the rooms in the Castle are mostly arranged according to the original layout decided upon by the royal couple. A valuable photographic reportage commissioned by the Archduke himself made accurate reconstruction possible.
Nowadays to visit the Castle is to experience the fascination of life in the middle of the 19th century in a residence that has remained largely intact.
During the construction, he had a small castle called the Gartenhuys or Castelletto built. It was a smaller replica of the main castle and he lived there until Christmas 1860.
The park of Miramare, which at one time had no vegetation, and has now a surface area of 22 hectares, stands on a rocky promontory overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The site was planned and arranged by Carl Junker, according to the wishes of the Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg who carefully followed the building of his residence. As far as the botanical aspect was concerned, a gardener, Josef Laube, was called in but was replaced in 1859 by Anton Jelinek, a Bohemian who had taken part in the frigate Novara’s expedition around the world.
The park, on which work began in 1856, represents a classic example of a mixed, artificial implantation of ligneous forest-trees and bushes and it succeeds in blending the charm of a typically Northern environment and a Mediterranean context. In contrast to the baroque garden, the English one – on which Miramare is modelled – introduces a new relationship with nature, resulting from a different sensibility towards the material world. This is why, when strolling along the paths in the park, you can breathe in an atmosphere that is tightly bound up with the life of its owner and his romantic relationship with nature, which was typical of his epoch.
Today, visitors are permitted to view Maximilian’s and Charlotte’s chambers and various other rooms. All the rooms still feature the original furnishings, ornaments, furniture and objects dating back to the middle of the 19th century.
Particularly noteworthy are the music room where Charlotte used to play the fortepiano, now on show in room VII. In room XIX there are a series of paintings by Cesare dell’Acqua depicting the history of Miramare.
Lastly, visitors may visit the throne room, which was recently restored to its former splendor.